Hands on: Philips OLED+ 903 review

Big on screen, big on sound

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Our Early Verdict

With Bowers & Wilkins supplying the television's integrated speakers, Philips' flagship OLED gets some serious audio credentials to match its beautiful 4K visuals. It's naturally still pricey, but the integrated speaker may save you having to boost your setup with additional loudspeakers.

For

  • Gorgeous 4K visuals
  • Highly successful upscaling from SDR
  • Premium integrated speaker

Against

  • A lot of money
  • Speaker doesn't output for surround sound

When Philips announced its OLED 803 television back in February, it marked a notable turn away from it high-end LCD range to the promise of OLED’s superior displays. With release only a few weeks away, Philips has announced an additional sibling for their expanding OLED series out in October, this time with a stress on the sound quality: the OLED+ 903.

Visuals are naturally the main concern of any prospective TV buyer, though the pursuit of ever more pixels, enhanced contrast ratios and widened color gamuts often means the audio performance of a television set is somewhat sidelined. And while there are plenty of speaker systems available, there’s an appeal to a high-quality television with audio to match right out of the box.

OLED still ain't cheap, and there's a price tag attached: £2,499 for the 55-inch model, and £3,499 for the 65-inch version (a notable £500 mark-up from the OLED 803's sizes).

But it’s the first time that Bowers & Wilkins has created an integrated television speaker, and the added prestige of the audio specialist’s brand certainly got our attention. So, has Philips managed to create an all-in-one home cinema?

Design

Visually, the OLED+ 903 is near-identical to its sibling model, the OLED 803, aside from the Kvadrat fabric-covered speaker sitting underneath the 903’s screen.

The upgraded model still features the uncannily thin screen and narrowed bezels, with the Philips and Bowers & Wilkins branding printed separately on its two inconspicuous feet stands – which you’ll be using if you’re not wall-mounting the set.

You’ll be able to get either the 55 or 65-inch model, with the size of the speaker extending to match the larger screen.

The OLED+ 903’s speaker itself comes in a smart dark gray and adds a good couple of inches to the height, while the overlaid mesh is made of the same high-grade Kvadrat material from Philip’s other integrated television speakers, such as that on the Philips QLED 8602.

Rather than delegating the sound solely to the rear of the television, the mid and high-range frequency drivers are forward-firing, with improved materials all around. You’ll now get a 19mm titanium tweeter instead of the soft dome structure on the OLED 803, with a new glass fibre cone for the mid-range. The subwoofers remain at the back, albeit with a stiffer architecture and ribbing to minimize vibration.

Performance

The OLED+ 903 has essentially the same gorgeous 4K UHD OLED display as the previous model. Utilizing Philips’ high-power P5 processor, the OLED+ 903 is optimized for HDR10+ content and features the expected advanced upscaling techniques and Ambilight technology for a stellar viewing experience. There’s a huge amount of visual detail and texture, colors pop even on standard SDR content, and a tweak to the set’s color processing offers even deeper blacks than before.

The ‘+’ in the name rather refers to a new addition on offer: namely the speaker attached to the underside of the screen. The speaker matches the 50W output of its predecessor, and is more than loud enough for watching movies, sport, or other general programming at home – without worrying about the sound distortion or loss of detail so often found in basic in-built speakers.

There’s an impressive heft to the audio, and a far wider soundstage than the OLED 803, giving a depth and presence to low, mid and high frequencies far beyond what you’d expect from such a slim speaker. 

It’s very much a Bowers & Wilkins speaker, rather than amped-up Philips stock. The performance is somewhere between Bowers & Wilkins' Zeppelin and the T7, though the fact that it's integrated into the television itself marks the speaker out as something quite new for the company, and for its listeners.

This isn’t a usual soundbar though; there’s no sub output for adding the television’s speakers to your surround-sound setup, which may grate on those hoping to use the OLED 903’s heft alongside their other speakers at home. It seems like less of an issue given the enhanced audio on offer, though anyone wanting something louder than 50W will naturally start looking to outside hardware.

Our early verdict

It’s still early days, but our impressions so far point to a bright future for Philips’ OLED range. The OLED+ 903 offers an integrated audio experience deserving of the set’s winning visual quality, and could well win over high-end buyers hankering for an all-in-one home cinema television set. And with a three-year partnership planned with Bowers & Wilkins, this only looks like the start.

  • IFA 2018 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.